A veteran brought many to tears as she gave out free hugs and handed out “notes from mom” at Halifax’s Pride Parade July 20.
Kristy Fournier, a mother of two, who is studying child and youth care work after a 17-year career in the military, said she was inspired to take action after reading a story in the United States about a group of parents who went to a Pride Parade with shirts that said “free mom hugs” and “free dad hugs.”
“I saw the impact that it had just from giving that one hug. It touched my heart. I said I want to do that as well. And reading in their story it said that a lot of the hugs were really heartfelt and there was a lot of emotions… I was in from the whole story,” Fournier told HuffPost Canada. “There are so many kids that just want to live their lives being happy and they don’t have the family support and I wanted to be one of the moms out there to support their decisions.”
But she wanted to give the people she hugged something more permanent to remind them that they are loved so she came up with the idea for the notes.
“That one hug is going to last five to 10 seconds and then they’re walking away and they’re walking away with a good feeling. But I wanted them to walk away with something that they could keep forever and something that was personal and that they could read every day for the rest of their lives if they keep that note and remind themselves that there is people out there to support them.”
Made sure notes were relatable
Fournier said she wanted to make sure the notes felt personal, and would apply to everyone who got one. She said she started writing until the carpal tunnel in her hand started acting up, and then she photocopied the rest of the notes from the ones she’d written. In total, she guesses she wrote eight to 10 versions of the notes and handed out around 100 at the parade.
The reaction from parade attendees was pretty priceless.
“People were running to me to give the hugs and they were so happy and excited. And then when we broke up from the hug, I was handing them the note and they were kind of overwhelmed… so many started tearing up.”
The genuine joy and emotional reactions were “a beautiful thing.
The last note she handed out went to a group of teens who she’d seen at the parade and spotted again afterwards at a bubble tea cafe.
“They they teared up right away… the one girl said,′ You have no idea what this means to me, I really needed this today.’”
The reactions weren’t just limited to people at the parade. After a photo of one of Fournier’s notes was posted on Instagram, and then reposted on Facebook, commenters started sharing stories about how thankful they were to have seen the kind gesture.
“I was in the parade and one of my coworkers received one of these notes, and instantly burst out crying. It meant so much to them. Whoever did this is such an angel,” one Facebook user wrote.
Leslie Mulcahy, who posted the photo of the note, told HuffPost Canada that she had been resting at the end of the parade with a few other participants, when one of them pulled Fournier’s message out and Mulcahy snapped the picture.
“The note had quite a few of us in tears... There was so much love, support and kindness at the Halifax Pride Parade and it’s so incredible to see the participation across the community throughout the festival,” she said.
“It was really special to see that someone had taken the time to write a personal, handwritten note to give to someone to let them know they are accepted and loved and that even if their own family isn’t behind them, there’s someone — and a whole community — who is.”
“Teach your children to love and accept that everybody is different. If everyone in this world would be the same, it would be a pretty boring world.”- Kristy Fournier
Fournier says she plans to continue giving out notes at future Pride Parades, but this time, she won’t be alone.
“I had so many friends say ‘Oh my gosh, Kristy, I’m doing this with you next year.’ We are starting this as a new movement.”
The 36-year-old also said she wants people to remember why they bring children into the world.
“We have children because we want to bring them into this amazing world… Love is supposed to be spread amongst all of us to share that love to be open and to stop the negativity surrounding LGBTQ+ community because they are here, they are proud and they are here to stay and they belong here and they have that right to be happy.”
She also reminded parents that they have a responsibility to raise their children into loving and accepting people.
“Teach your children to love and accept that everybody is different. If everyone in this world would be the same, it would be a pretty boring world.”
And to all those LGBTQ+ people who may not be getting the love they need from their own parents? Fournier has one simple message.
“Don’t give up. Just keep believing in yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out because there is great support for this community out there. There are so many people doing outreach as child and youth care workers. We are here to help. We’re here to spread the love and we’re here to build self-esteem and confidence and advocate.”
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